In the quote in the title, "of" refers both to the material that makes up the cup and to the stuff that the cup holds. I remember reading that there is a literary device that describes this, but I can't remember what it's called. The device, if I remember correctly, refers to the parallel structure of a phrase whereby a thing is described in two aspects or, as in this case, an aspect and a function. Shakespeare commonly used it, though I can't think of a quote.

Syliva Plath uses it in the line:

I am silver and exact

to refer to a mirror--what it's made from and how it does its job.

Could someone tell me what this structure is called.

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    Sylvia Plath uses synecdoche in a word that is a near homophone of her name. – Kris Nov 28 '13 at 13:22

It’s an instance of syllepsis, in which 'one word is used with two senses in the same utterance’ (Katie Wales, ‘A Dictionary of Stylistics’)

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    While cups of gold and wine is definitely a syllepsis, I seriously doubt if I am silver and exact is. – Kris Nov 28 '13 at 13:17
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    Yes, I should have made it clear that I was answering only in respect of the first phrase. – Barrie England Nov 28 '13 at 13:46
  • My thinking is that the two senses of "to be" in the Plath quote function the same way as the "of" in "of gold and wine". The first is existential and the second qualitative. – tylerharms Nov 29 '13 at 6:36

Another name for this device is 'zeugma'.

As to the question of whether both phrases are examples of syllepsis/zeugma...is the jury in or out? I'm not sure. Both of the parallel statements in the 'cups' quotation are literal; textbook examples of zeugma involve a mix of literal and figurative language. As in, 'he took his leave and his coat'. (Can't think of a more interesting example off the top of my head.)

Similarly, the words 'I am' do the same job whether used in the sentence 'I am silver' and 'I am exact'.

'A mirror silver and exact' -- suddenly sounds a lot like zeugma...

Perhaps we can describe these as examples of weak zeugma, or avoid trying to pin a label to them altogether and, instead, note the parallel construction.

I like how the Plath quotation is self-referential. In that it seems overly exact to add the words 'and exact' to the description

  • Zeugma is a little different from syllepsis, but they are sometimes difficult to tell apart. Katie Wells’s definition of zeugma is ‘a figure of speech in which either (i) two nouns (commonly) are governed by a single verb, but where a difference in meaning is involved; or (ii) where one verb serves more than one clause.’ – Barrie England Nov 28 '13 at 15:56
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